2019 HCO Board Trip
Over the years, HCO has had many faithful men and women serve on our Board of Directors. In January, 2019, the current HCO board of directors traveled together to Haiti as a team to pray, listen, reflect and help shepherd the work of the mission and its vision that has been cast and put into place by RoRo Eustache. Board member Dr. Ryan Hata shares some thoughts about the week and a unique video look at our ministry locations.
Mist on the mountains…
Standing at over 5,000 feet above sea level overlooking the valley below gives you the distinct impression that you are on top of the world. In the distance, the mist from rolling clouds moves gracefully over the landscape and obscures the sun. The sudden drop in temperature turns the tropical heat into crisp, cool air, making you almost forget that you are on a Caribbean island. This is Grand Bois, a small village nestled in the volcanic mountains of southern Haiti.
The ride up the mountain is relentlessly jostling. Our group of 6 board members, plus our Haitian hosts, bounce across the unpaved rocky roads that require 4-wheel drive for nearly three hours. We wind up and up, past tiny houses and plots of farmland, the occasional pedestrian or villager riding a donkey giving us curious looks as we roll by.
Approaching our destination, we see through the dust a large L-shaped building in the distance. Emmanuel Christian Church, Grand Bois, serves as a school, community center, and house of worship for the surrounding village. On this day, the children inside recite words and phrases that their teachers write on the chalk boards, learning the skills necessary to become the next leaders of Haiti.
Education here is a prized commodity, and like all other commodities in Haiti, it does not come easily. According to USAID, nearly one-half of the adult population of Haiti is illiterate, and the average adult has less than 5 years of formal education. Despite this, HCO has been able to establish and maintain this school and worship center since 2011. They have seen child after child grow and graduate. The spiritual and educational gifts that it bestows upon the surrounding community are seen in the gratitude of the people, the dedication of the staff, and the faces of the children.
Before the mountains were born or You gave birth to the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God. (Psalm 90:2)
The unremitting sun beats down as the water moves swiftly by the edge of our small boat. Occasional splashes of cool, refreshing sea water hit our mouths, and the salty taste makes it hard to distinguish from the sweat dripping from our faces. Surrounded by stunning coastline and sapphire blue water, it is hard to imagine the struggle for life that occurs daily just a few miles inward.
And Jesus said to them, Follow Me, and I will make you become fishers of men. (Mark 1:17)
We turn left, landing on the rocky beach of Belle Anse, a small fishing village on the southern coast. Naked children play in the water while young men cast nets and fishing line into the shallow cove. We are greeted by a small group of curious onlookers, and after gathering our supplies, we make our way through winding streets and empty fields to the half-finished structure that will serve as the new Emmanuel Christian Church of Belle Anse.
Belle Anse has no covered structure to serve as a place of worship, and the importance of finishing this project is very much appreciated in the hot sun. Men work on scaffolding, placing layer upon layer of stucco on the cinder-block walls. While there is no church service while we are there, if you listen closely you can almost hear the worship songs of the villagers that will rise up when this building is complete. After surveying the sight, taking pictures, and having a small lunch of PB&J, we cast off again, turning out into the turquoise waters, destination Anse a Boeuf.
Now on the last day, the great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, ‘From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.'” (John 7:37-38)
We visit the well and reverse-osmosis of the water purification system that provides the only clean drinking water for the entire village of Anse a Boeuf. One of our team members remarks: “I remember the first time we came here, the children ran up to us and immediately asked for water. Now, since HCO has put in the well and water purifier, these same children run up to us and want to play.”
Nothing more needs to be said.
Jesus answered and said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will thirst again; but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life.” (John 4:13-14)
Church service in the U.S. might last one or two hours, yet we were three hours into our service in Seguin, and we are just getting started! As we sing and worship, parades of women, children, and men dance down the aisle that separates the hand-fashioned pews. While our little group of Americans do not understand the lyrics to the songs or the words of the sermons, nevertheless the Spirit that fills the room and our souls is unmistakable.
But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep. For since by a man came death, by a man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, after that those who are Christ’s at His coming. (1 Corinthians 15:20-23)
As the day progresses, basket after basket full of fresh produce begins to pile up outside the doors of the church. Women dressed in bright yellow and blue carry these large baskets on their heads down a steep hill with the grace of ballerinas, and when the time is right, begin to line up outside the open doors. Entering the church to songs of praise, they march down the aisle and place their overflowing baskets in front of the congregation.
Today is the celebration of first fruits, which has its foundation in the story of the Exodus. While the biblical day of first fruits celebrated the offerings of the harvest season of Israel, and later the resurrection of Jesus, today the villagers will offer the first fruits of their harvest on the altar of the church, to be distributed to the needy in the name of mercy. It’s a profound sight, seeing such plenty in the midst of poverty, the love and generosity of those who offer their very best in the face of having so very little. It reminds me of a story…
And He (Jesus) looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the treasury, and He saw also a certain poor widow putting in two mites. So He said, “Truly I say to you that this poor widow has put in more than all; for all these out of their abundance have put in offerings for God, but she out of her poverty put in all the livelihood that she had.” (Luke 21:1-4)
A Mighty Fortress…
We lean in and listen closely as the sound of playing children, loud in the background, begins to fade and the story takes shape. “We started building on April 21, 1985,” RoRo says as his thoughts journey back in time. He gestures toward the area from where we had just come: “When the engineer gave us the pillars out by where the garden is, I was mad. I said, ‘There is no way we can build this.’ The pillars were just too big. The engineer said, ‘Maybe someday you will thank me for building this.’”
The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. (Psalm 18:2)
January 12, 2010 proved that day. The earthquake that devastated Haiti and left nearly a quarter of a million people dead and affected several million more, tore through the island with the ferocity rarely seen in any other natural disaster. While the world watched in horror and outside organizations struggled to provide aid, Emmanuel Christian Church in Delmas 24 in Port-au-Prince stood nearly untouched. Its concrete walls and mighty pillars withstood the shaking ground, and when the dust had cleared, it became a beacon of hope for the injured and suffering. Mercy Ships carried the wounded to the church, and over the next several months the sanctuary provided shelter and comfort to those who had lost everything. As the story came to a close it became apparent: we were standing on hallowed ground.
My mouth will declare Your righteousness and Your salvation all day long, though I cannot know their full measure. I will enter in the strength of the Lord God; I will proclaim Your righteousness, Yours alone. (Psalm 71:15-16)
With each of us, God is writing a story. The story of Haitian Christian Outreach is one of God’s great joy in times of sorrow, His abundant plenty in times of need, His sustaining strength in times of weakness, and His enduring faithfulness through it all. Over 35 years ago, the smallest mustard seed of faith had taken root, and the branches that now spread across an island, over mountains, and beyond the sea to many nations, link thousands of people through faith, hope, and love.
Sitting in the hotel reflecting on our week, we ponder the impact of that story on our own lives. We are honored to be footnotes in a great story, written by a Great Author, who perfects our faith through His gracious love. With humbled hearts and luggage in hand, we head to the airport, each of us knowing that we will be back someday soon…
Ryan Hata, MD
Haitian Christian Outreach
Board of Directors